Jimmy Pattison, one of the richest men in Canada, will lead a panel that will monitor how TransLink spends the new 0.5 per cent Metro Vancouver transit tax, if the yes side wins the upcoming referendum.
The Metro Vancouver Mayors' Council announced on Thursday morning that Pattison will "head up a blue ribbon public accountability committee."
Pattison, who is worth at least an estimated $9.5 billion according to Bloomberg, said the transit projects are important for the future of the region.
"I know how important our transportation and transit system is, both to our needs now, and to the needs of our children and grandchildren," said Pattison.
"We need this infrastructure, and the public has a right to transparency and accountability."
In an interview with On the Coast, Pattison suggested that he didn't have detailed information about the committee, his role, or how long of a commitment it would entail.
"I just got asked if I would do it and I said I’d be happy to," said Pattison.
Pattison made his fortune by turning a string of car dealerships into a multinational conglomerate with interests in media distribution, grocery stores and outdoor advertising, but he has a history of volunteer work and philanthropy.
In the 1980s he ran the highly successful Expo 86 World Fair, earning just a $1 a year for the five years he spent putting together the world exposition on transportation and communication.
He confirmed he will not be paid for his his new role heading the panel — if the referendum passes.
Hearing people 'loud and clear'
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the aim was to reassure the public the money will be properly spent.
"We have heard loud and clear from the people of Metro Vancouver on this question. They want assurances that the money collected from the PST increase will go to pay for the critical transportation and transit improvements needed in the region," said Robertson.
"By appointing Mr. Pattison to head up this oversight committee, we are providing voters with a concrete mechanism to monitor and ensure that the funds raised will be used for the infrastructure they are meant to pay for."
But Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, who is heading up the no side in the referendum campaign, questioned if even Pattison could help TransLink's troubled reputation.
"Well Mr. Pattisons no doubt an icon. Expo 86 and the job he did there was second to none, and obviously a great reputation within the community, but this doesn't solve Translinks problems."
Over the coming weeks, residents of Metro Vancouver will have a chance to vote by mail-in ballot on the new 0.5 per cent sales tax to fund a 10-year expansion of the region's transportation and transit infrastructure.